Now that the Bucks have been crowned NBA champions, it’s time for the Bucs to begin their title defense.
The Milwaukee Bucks overcame 2-0 series deficits against the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns and were as high as 12-1 to win the title when they trailed in their second-round series.
Speaking of Wisconsin, news broke Friday night that some sportsbooks were taking down all Packers-related markets and were operating under the assumption that Aaron Rodgers would retire in the coming days. Some books reopened Packers season win totals at eight, down from 11, and moved the Packers from 12-1 to win the Super Bowl to 40-1.
On Monday, we gained some clarity. The likely outcome seems to be Rodgers playing one more year for the Packers before perhaps moving on. The Packers certainly maintain their status as one of the teams on the shortlist of title contenders, and those who jumped on the Minnesota Vikings based on the Rodgers news are left holding the bag. Certainly a strange scenario, but I never was totally convinced Rodgers would wear anything other than a Packers uniform come September.
Now, let’s find some winners …
Washington Football Team Under 8.5 Wins
Washington will be the darling of lots of pundits this year. It rose from the abyss of a 2-7 start to win the NFC East last year and was valiant in defeat as the only team to cover in the first round of the playoffs. However, season win totals are a battle of the team vs. the schedule, and in this case, I favor the schedule. In Weeks 1 and 2, the WFT plays the Los Angeles Chargers and New York Giants. More likely than not, that is a split and a 1-1 start.
But in Weeks 3-12, well, good luck. In no particular order, the WFT plays the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Packers, Bucs, Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints in addition to road games at Atlanta and Denver that are no picnic. One of the easier non-division matchups is against the Las Vegas Raiders, but unfortunately for Washington, that game is in Las Vegas and the Raiders will be on extra rest, having played Thursday the week before while Washington will be off a Monday night game against Seattle and on short rest. Yikes.
Even games against the Dallas Cowboys that were layups last year will not be such this year with Dak Prescott returning. Washington had the good fortune to face the Cowboys with Andy Dalton and Ben DiNucci last season, defeated Nick Mullens and Ryan Finley and won the infamous Nate Sudfeld game in Week 17 as the Eagles rolled over. A murderous schedule in ’21 makes me think Washington is destined for six or seven wins. Winning nine or more and going over .500 would be a major accomplishment for a team led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has played for seemingly every team in the league and never made the playoffs in his nearly two decades.
Take the Under and don’t be afraid to look at some alternative Unders, as this schedule could make for a long year.
Bucs (-175) To Win NFC South
The Super Bowl hangover is real. Usually, I would be looking to fade a team that won or even played in, the previous year’s game. But the defending champs return everybody, and I mean everybody. Coaches, players … rarely is a defending champ completely intact after a title run.
The Bucs also have the carrot of the division title to motivate themselves, because as I think many will forget, they did not win the NFC South last year. The Saints did, and though Drew Brees clearly was not the player he was earlier in his career, we saw the Broncos fall off the map after Peyton Manning retired in 2016.
The Saints still have some productive skill players, a Hall of Fame coach and a competent defense. I’m just not a fan of utility infielder Taysom Hill. The thought of him winning the 11 or 12 games necessary to repeat in the division seems like a stretch. The Saints also will have the obstacle of facing a first-place schedule, another advantage for the Bucs. The Panthers are still rebuilding, and the Falcons could be improved under a new coaching staff, but the Bucs should cruise to at least 12-5, a mark nobody in the division is likely to approach. The Bucs will be honing in on cashing this ticket by Thanksgiving.